Donna Strickland


Donna Strickland is a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Waterloo and is one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics 2018 for developing chirped pulse amplification with Gérard Mourou, her PhD supervisor at the time. They published this Nobel-winning research in 1985 when Strickland was a PhD student at the University of Rochester in New York state. Together they paved the way toward the most intense laser pulses ever created. The research has several applications today in industry and medicine — including the cutting of a patient’s cornea in laser eye surgery, and the machining of small glass parts for use in cell phones.

Strickland was a research associate at the National Research Council Canada, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and a member of technical staff at Princeton University. In 1997, she joined the University of Waterloo, where her ultrafast laser group develops high-intensity laser systems for nonlinear optics investigations. She is a recipient of a Sloan Research Fellowship, a Premier’s Research Excellence Award and a Cottrell Scholar Award. She served as the president of the Optical Society (OSA) in 2013 and is a fellow of OSA, the Royal Society of Canada, and SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics). Strickland is an honorary fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering as well as the Institute of Physics. She received the Golden Plate Award from the Academy of Achievement and holds numerous honorary doctorates.

Strickland earned a PhD in optics from the University of Rochester and a B.Eng. from McMaster University.

Research Interests

  • Intense laser-matter interactions
  • Nonlinear optics
  • Short-pulse, intense laser systems
  • Photonics
  • Optical Systems

Scholarly Research

Ultrashort pulse generation through multi-frequency Raman generation: We are investigating the nonlinear optical technique of multi-frequency Raman generation, (MRG). In MRG, a large number of Raman orders spanning from infrared to ultraviolet are generated by pumping a molecular gas with two strong pumps having a frequency separation matching the vibrational or rotational frequency. Waterloo's ultrafast laser group has developed a high intensity, two-colour, Ti:sapphire laser, which is an ideal source for studying MRG. This coherent nonlinear interaction allows the Raman orders to be phased together to generate a train of very short pulses, approaching single femtosecond durations, which can be used to make "freeze frame" movies of molecular motion. Two-colour fiber laser system for mid-infrared generation: The spectral region from 6 to 25µm is known as the "molecular fingerprint region" because almost every molecule has a distinctive signature in its absorption spectra at these wavelengths. Along with applications in environmental monitoring and medical applications, this spectral region is becoming increasingly important for trace gas detection of explosives. At Waterloo, we are developing a two-colour, short pulse fiber laser system to generate mid-infrared wavelengths across the fingerprint region by difference frequency mixing the two laser outputs in a nonlinear crystal. Currently we have generated sub-picosecond mid-infrared pulses with over 1mW of average power with wavelengths tunable from 16 to 20 µm. Self-focusing in the crystalline lens: In a collaborative project with Prof. Melanie Campbell and Prof. Joe Sanderson, we are studying the role of self-focusing and multi-photon ionization on micro-cavity bubble formation within the crystalline lens. Micromachining of the crystalline lens of the eye has become an active area of research to determine if the elasticity of the lens can be improved by creating microbubbles within the lens to possible cure the condition of Presbyopia.


  • 1989 PhD Optics, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
  • 1981 B.Eng Engineering Physics, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario


  • 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics “for groundbreaking inventions in the field of laser physics” for the "method of generating high-intensity, ultra-short optical pulses.”
  • 2008 Fellow of the Optical Society of America
  • 2000 Cottrell Scholars Award from Research Corporation
  • 1999 Premier’s Research Excellence Award
  • 1998 Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship


  • 2004-2010 topical editor, Optics Letters

Professional Associations

  • 2014 OSA Board of Directors
  • 2013 President, OSA
  • ​2011 Vice-President, OSA
  • 2008-2011 OSA-appointed representative to the International Commission for Optics (ICO) Board
  • 2005-2007 Director at Large, OSA Board of Directors


  • PHYS 394 - Light-Matter Interactions
    • Taught in 2019
  • PHYS 714 - Nonlinear Optics
    • Taught in 2020, 2022, 2024

* Only courses taught in the past 5 years are displayed.

Selected/Recent Publications

  • "Compression of amplified chirped optical pulses", Donna Strickland and Gerard Mourou, Optics Communications 55(6) 447-449 (1985)
  • "A tunable mid-infrared source (16-20 μm) from an ultrafast two-color", M. Hajialamdari, D. Strickland, Opt. Lett. 37,3570-3572, (2012)
  • "Two-color fiber amplifier for short-pulse mid-infrared Generation", R. Romero-Alvarez, R. Pettus, Z. Wu and D. Strickland Opt. Lett. 33, 1065-1067 (2008)
  • "Anti-Stokes Enhancement of Multi-Frequency Raman Generation in a Dispersion-Matched Hollow Fibre" F.C. Turner and D. Strickland Opt. Lett. 33, 405-407 (2008)
  • "Multi-frequency parametric IR Raman generation in KGd(WO4)2 crystal with biharmonic ultrashort pulse pumping" L. L. Losev, J. Song, J. F. Xia, Z. and D. Strickland, V. V. Brukhanov, Opt. Lett. 27, 2100-2102 (2002)
  • "Development of a dual-wavelength Ti:sapphire multi-pass amplifier and its application to intense mid-infrared generation" J. F. Xia , J. Song, and D. Strickland, Opt. Commun. 206, 149-157 (2002)
  • "Dual wavelength chirped pulse amplification system" Z. Zhang, A. M. Deslauriers and D. Strickland, Opt. Lett. 25, 581 (2000)

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